JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Surface (Director/Writer: Michael J. Saul) - January 6, 2016
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The Surface

3.5 3.5
79 min.

Everyone into the pool of life

Here’s a promising feature that will be of equal interest to all sexualities. The notion of fitting in—to family, relationships, social situations and especially self-understanding—is lovingly told by director-writer Michael J. Saul with minimum spoken or situational clichés and maximum visual interest (principals, 8mm footage and locales alike).

Three men are thrown into emotional, sexual and mutual-acceptance struggles by the wonderful device of newly found, long-ago shot home movies. At the centre of it all is Evan, whose early life was spent in a series of foster homes (kindling an echo to Steve Jobs who was summarily rejected as an infant after just one month—cross-reference below), leading to—quite understandably—feelings of rejection, isolation and loneliness. Now 22, his only true comfort is the wonderful feeling of floating in water: on the surface staring into the heavens, or just beneath, bobbing in and out of reality at will. Long-locked Henry Hains is most certainly not out of his depth in this pivotal role, bringing a range of emotion that ought to serve him well in future assignments.

Evan’s current boyfriend, Chris, is painted with a decidedly shallower brush, happy to have the alluring filmmaker-in-training in his bed and house so long as “Mom doesn’t find out.” Nicholas McDonald gamely does all that he’s asked, but can’t quite manage to find a credible “I miss you” when the time comes.

The most intriguing character of the story is ~40 Peter, son of a devoted father who took reel after reel of his pride and joy, spending much of his early years with a very special friend. It is those 8mm memories that Evan binds together for a school project, only to erupt into an emotional tsunami in Peter, which, not surprisingly, ends up in a physical union between auteur and subject as they begin to face long-ignored, put-out-of-the-way truths.

Michael Redford Carney plays the also lost “older” with conviction and honesty. Tellingly, Saul shows Peter’s and Evan’s forays between the sheets as love making while Peter’s and Chris’ couplings are brief moments of just having sex (both approaches, nonetheless, are models of discreet, near-prudish encounters).

The icing on the visual (Saul also being cinematographer) cake comes from Mike Aimes’ piano-infused original score. How deliciously curious that the most poignant recurring theme has a compelling hint of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” a song that sums up Evan to a T.

“Everybody needs a [real] family” is the film’s mantra; finding one is the art of life. JWR

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Director/Writer - Michael J. Saul
Music - Mike Aimes
Art Direction - Brandy Maasch
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Ariztical Entertainment
Cross-reference(s): Please click on the image link(s) below
for related work: